The Killigrews are an important 17th century Cornish family and their estate is visited by such as Ralegh. Maugan, the eldest (and illegitimate) son, is apprenticed out at 15 as a clerk in a warehouse. He discovers that his family name is not well-liked and it becomes evident that his father may be linked with pirates. Then, during a Spanish raid, the lad is abducted and carried off to Madrid where he becomes a page at Philip's court. He attends an auto-da-fe, meets the aged Cervantes, then is returned to England with a message for his father who is to aid the Second Armada when it lands at Cornwall... The form is conventional, but the straightforward sweep and complexity of the plot and characters bring the book to life.